In the history of the scientific revolution of India, Sir CV Raman has a prominent place. He was the first Indian scientist to win the Nobel Prize for his famous discovery named after him as ‘Raman Effect’. Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman was born on 7th Nov 1888 in a small village, near the then Trichonopoly in Tamil Nadu. When he was just 15 years old, he completed his graduation from Presidency College Madras, securing first rank, with Gold Medals in Physics and English. He could not go abroad for higher studies as he was declared medically unfit to be able to withstand the English weather. Raman stayed back in India and completed his M.Sc. in Physics, topping in the University.
Raman appeared for the Indian Civil Services Competitive exam for the Finance department and he was the top scorer. He joined this department as Assistant Accountant General in Calcutta in 1907. He also conducted research in Indian Association for Cultivation of Science. During this period, Raman published 30 papers in world renowned magazines like Nature, The Philosophical Magazine and the Physical Review. In 1917, he was offered the post of Palit Professor of Physics in Calcutta University. He resigned his far more paying Government post and with considerable financial sacrifice, he accepted the prestigious Palit Professorship. In his 16-year stint there, he continued his research on acoustics, optics and physiology of human vision.
In one of his experiments in end 1927 – early 1928, he allowed monochromatic light from a mercury arc to pass through transparent materials, which were arranged to fall on a spectrograph, to record its spectrum. He observed some new lines in the spectrum, which were later called as ‘Raman Lines’ and his discovery was termed as ‘Raman Effect’.
In 1929, Raman was knighted by King George V of Great Britain. Confident of winning the Nobel Prize in 1930, Raman also booked his tickets in July, though it was only in November that the Nobel Awards would be declared. He ultimately won the 1930 Nobel Prize for Physics – the first non White and the first Asian to get the Nobel Prize in the sciences. It may surprise today’s science enthusiasts that his discovery was made with equipment worth hardly Rs. 300. From 1930 onwards, along with his own research, he also spared time for training young science researchers of our country and also foreign enthusiasts. In 1933, Raman became Director of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
In 1947, the new Government of independent India appointed him as the first ‘National Professor’. He was conferred the ‘Bharat Ratna’ in 1954.
CV Raman was not only a great scientist; he was a wonderful speaker too. His convocation ceremony speech at Agra University in 1950 proves that he was an excellent orator:
“I know poverty and misery and I quite appreciate by personal experience what it is to be poor, what it is to have no clothes, no books, what it is to struggle through life, what it is to walk through the streets without an umbrella, without conveyance along miles on dusty roads. I have been through it all and I can understand the difficulties that most of you graduates have to face today. I am speaking from a long experience of 60 years. Please do not imagine that all the 60 years are milk and roses. To be able to accomplish something, I want to tell you that you have to go through such experience.
I admit, success is not always to the intelligent or the strong and it is to some extent a bit of a gamble, but nonetheless those who have got their minds right, and those who know their job, will sooner or later, sooner perhaps than later, make their way in life. But they should not be disappointed if they do not, they have to face up life and take it as they find it. This is the kind of philosophy that I have learnt by experience, and I make a free gift of it to you all.
What I say is this, that the great things in life are not really great things in life. The Nobel Prize, the F. R. S and the like, many of them leave a bitter taste in the mouth. What I love is to enjoy the common things of life.
I am happy that I am still able to sleep at night provided I have three miles walk in the evening. I am still able to enjoy a good lunch or dinner. I am still able to look at the blue sky and like it. I still like to walk in the open fields and like the smell of the Ragi or the Jowar. I feel a younger man when I see the Babul flower and say; God has given us these wonderful things. This is the real philosophy of life to appreciate what we see around us.
We think that happiness consists in going to pictures and seeing thrilling films and techni-colour dramas. Not at all, the great things in life are the God given things, which cost nothing. What you need is the desire to appreciate them. If you have your minds and hearts open, you have around you things which give you joy.
I study science not because anything is going to happen to me but because I find it is a kind of worship of this great Goddess Nature, of which we are a part. That has been my inspiration as a man of science. I feel now that is one thing that can always make a man happy, the small things in life not only in nature.... our old friends, old music and the things that we have around us. Many a time I would like to go back to them. It may be a sign of cynicism, but I would like to go back to the common things in life. A glass of cold water, for example, gives us vigour and freshness. I can assure you there is no pleasure in this world for a healthy man, than after a vigorous exercise or doing something hard, just to go home and have a glass of cold water. If you have lost the capacity to appreciate that, you may as well drink a cup of hemlock, as Socrates had to do.
I have another word to say. We all speak of patriotism. What is patriotism? I want you to think it over and in the last analysis bring down patriotism to a physical term. I have thought over the problem. Patriotism as well as a number of things boils down to the love of earth. We are of the earth. When we die, we return to earth. Seeta was of the earth and returned to earth. This good earth sustains us. I think ultimately the love for the land means the love for the earth, which has borne us and which sustains us.
The more you help a man, the less grateful he is to you. It is however, our duty to help fellow human beings and we should not expect them to show any gratitude in return.
I never believe in manuscript eloquence or in after-dinner speeches carefully prepared 24 hours before hand. I always believe in standing up in front of my audience, appreciate the situation and speak to them heart to heart. I want you to think over what I have told you and see if some little thing that I have said may prove the seed of some great achievement on your part, sustain you, encourage you, elevate your hearts above and so push you on in life that you may rise triumphant over all the difficulties and all the troubles that are the common lot of the common man in India today”.
Excerpts from ‘World Famous Indian Scientists’
Anup Y. Attavar
B.E. Mech. [COEP], P.G.D. – International Trade [IIFT, New Delhi]
Author – 'World Famous Indian Scientists'
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